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I am a Bisexual – I know it now.

Dear Christianne.

I thought I would share this post I made many, many years ago about realizing my bisexuality. It is still valid today. I have, however, removed some names from the post, since some things have changed in the past ten years! Enjoy.

“What are you girls doing back there?!!”, came my mother’s suspicious voice from the front of the motor home. It reminded me of her warning “Girls don’t touch each other like that,” and the tone of voice that said “If anyone ever touches you that way, you tell me, now, you hear?” … the voice that evoked shame and insecurity regardless of the circumstances. But we had only been tickling each other! It must have been the giggling and squealing noises. My bubble of fun was burst, and I had to again be very careful to do things the right way, especially with other girls– without knowing what the right way was. But I wasn’t too worried. At 10, I knew I liked boys… especially two in particular.

Years later in high school, I was bubbly and friendly with my wonderful friends. We would joke about my “flirty” personality; obviously I liked men, so I wasn’t a lesbian. Occasionally when watching movies with men and women making love, my breath would come heavy as they showed the woman’s naked body. It was confusing, it must just be my fantasy of being with the actor, I obviously wasn’t gay. Who wouldn’t want to be in Michelle Pfeiffer’s shoes as she seduces Mel Gibson in Tequila Sunrise? After all, I had a steady boyfriend. And it was merely aesthetic interest that made some of my female friends exceptionally beautiful. … or so I thought then.

Now I know what it means. I’m bisexual.

It was long after my first pangs of attraction for women that I heard the term ‘bisexual’, and even longer still until I accepted the fact that I was one of them. It was difficult to imagine the world of an outsider until I became on e. According to Weinburg, Williams, and Pryor, the authors of Dual Attraction, “The majority of bisexuals established heterosexuality first in their lives ….They became bisexual over time, depending on a wide range of sexual and cultural experiences. And many did not define themselves as bisexual until years after their first dual attractions.”

I had many misconceptions of bisexuals as nymphomaniacs or mixed-up lesbians. It also took me a long time to realize that not all women found other women beautiful. When I realized that perhaps I did have a gay side, I was confused as to what to do. I gradually became friends with other bisexual and lesbian women, and learned to accept my feelings as natural. But what woman would have an interest in me? I was very “normal”-looking, not particularly dykish or femmish. And did I really want to change my lifestyle?

Some time after graduating from college, I decided to host a Halloween party with an unusual theme. The men had to show up as women, and the women had to be men. I had a reputation for throwing good parties, and my friends decided it would be a lark. At this party, after becoming a bit tipsy, I followed ****, a lesbian friend, out to the front porch. It was a nice night, with a cool breeze, and I said, with alcoholic courage, “Can I kiss you?”

She was surprised and amused and replied that she thought I was ‘het’. I explained my recent revelation, and said that I’d like to see if I really was bisexual. We kissed. It seemed odd that it felt so natural.

After, ****asked if it was different from kissing men. “Yeah,” I managed. It was much softer, less forceful. I really enjoyed it. It made me wonder why it took so long to decide if I was bisexual. After that night, we never kissed again, but remained good friends with a very special connection.

No, not just anyone will do. It takes someone special for me to get romantic. Sometimes, women will take a step backward when they realize I like women. So, I explain that they needn’t fear, women who do not like other women don’t attract me. Usually, they eventually realize that I am not going to do anything that they don’t want, and become more comfortable around me.

When I “came out” to my friend, ***, an old and dear heterosexual friend from high school, I was somewhat nervous as I had no idea how she would respond. “By the way, I’m bisexual,” I said. She seemed somewhat taken aback. But, then she paused, and said “We still love you, anyway.” I watched to see if there were any subtle differences in her behavior, but I did not see any. She even hugged me when she left.

Does a bisexual have to sleep with others of the same sex? Not necessarily. “A rose by any other name would smell as sweet”. My friend ***, considers himself bisexual, although he is still a virgin, and does not want to become involved with men. He wants to have a wife and children, and feels that it would be too difficult to adopt from a queer relationship. He does feel attraction to other men, he just doesn’t act on it.

We use labels to mentally organize our world into smaller categories. They can be very useful in new interactions; they save us effort when we talk. However, they also create false assumptions. I see sexual orientation on a continuum, with pure heterosexuality on one end, and homosexuality on the other. Visualize a bell curve with most people falling in between. (True, there may be bi-as here.) However, society tends to push us toward one end or the other, usually the heterosexual end, through socialization processes. For instance, since I was little, people have always said “Wait till you get married…”, “When you start dating boys…”, or “Girls don’t do that…”

This caused me to assume that I should only date boys and behave in stereotypically ‘feminine’ ways. Also, because lesbians are disapproved of and discriminated against, many people would prefer not to acknowledge any homosexual tendencies. Furthermore, according to Wayne Bryant, founder of Biversity, a Boston area mixed gender bisexual social group, and former board member of the Boston Bisexual Resource Center, “Society tends to view sexuality in a dichotomous way, either/or, straight or gay. Bisexual people are marginalized by this. They’re treated as if they don’t exist. For instance, when newspapers talked about the legislation passed in Massachusetts which made it illegal to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation, they called it the “gay and lesbian rights legislation”. Even gay groups, when mentioning events for gays, lesbians, and bisexuals, will often leave the “bi” part out.”

Years after my first female kiss, I was working in Connecticut as a case manager for people with chronic and severe mental illness. I shared an office with ***, a dedicated fun-loving woman in her thirties. We became fast friends, and spent many off-hours together. I eventually mentioned my bisexuality, and she explained that she, too, loved both men and women, but did not use the term bisexual. I was very surprised…she seemed so normal. She broached the subject of us getting involved, but I wasn’t yet interested and we remained good friends.

Months went by, and I developed great affection for this beautiful woman. I began to view her as more and more attractive, until I realized that yes, I did want more than a friendship. One night, we went to a women’s bar in Springfield, Massachusetts , with our friend Tim. I had never been to one before, but apparently men were allowed if escorted by a woman. Lesbians have male friends, too. It was fun, and I again used alcohol as a psychological crutch.

Slightly buzzed, I made my way to the parking lot behind my good friends. Somehow, I don’t quite remember, *** and I embraced and she kissed me sweetly. Right there, in front of all those people. But no one seemed to mind. And *** and I drove back to her apartment. This began a beautiful new facet of our friendship. We have since returned to a strictly platonic relationship, which has been somehow deepened by such an interlude. But I will always think fondly of that time. And today I don’t need alcoholic courage to relay my desires.

What am I attracted to in people? Personality is more important than body parts, though sometimes one sex is more noticeable than another– *** called these her “girl phases” and “boy phases”. Superficial attractions al so differ. I like women with short hair, and men with long, well-groomed hair are enticing– although ‘butch’ and ‘femme’ need not apply here. I like lean but toned bodies, and beautiful, ethereal faces. … I like eyes… As they say, eyes mirror the soul. I like eyes that I can get lost in, sink into, and forget the world in. I like eyes that speak of inner beauty and a generous soul. I like eyes that call to me spiritually.

*****, my bisexual housemate, however, says “I am attracted to bearded, smiling teddy bear-men, and small women who take up a lot of space.” Whereas another bisexual, ****, likes Isabella Rosellini’s and Henry Rollins’.

Women strike me as softer, more sensual, verbally-oriented, thoughtful, and affectionate. They are more likely to express emotions. Men appear more independent, ‘take-charge’, passionate, action-oriented, and intellectual. (But, there are exceptions to every rule.) I like men for their stability, assertiveness, and strength. I love women for their adaptability, flexibility, beauty, and sensitivity. Man is an oak, woman a willow. According to research done by Weinburg, Williams, and Pryor, for both male and female bisexuals, “sex with men was described as more physical, with women as more intimate…For men, it was easier to have sex with other men than to fall in love with them. For women it was easier to fall in love with women than to have sex with them.”

Once, in meeting one of the most handsome men I’ve ever seen, the vulgar things that flew out of his mouth were striking. I was immediately cured of the attraction. Fortunately, my visual perception is extremely interwoven with my mental perception. My friends tend to be open-minded, intelligent, communicative, and willing to experiment. My lovers are intense, fun, affectionate, unique, and loving… Sure, looks make a difference. But not as much as you might think.

Is it better to be involved with bisexuals? Yes and no. For example, some of my closest friends are homosexual. And my healthiest relationship was with a heterosexual, ***. He was excellent at communicating with me, and was unfazed by my attraction s to women. Actually, we were amused to discover that we had the same taste in women.

However, the bisexuals I’ve met are more aware of the need for safe sex than both the heterosexuals and the gays I’ve met. This may be due to the false stereotype of bisexuals as AIDS carriers which makes us more aware of AIDS as a constant threat. And, obviously, other bisexuals will better understand the discrimination we face from both the gay and straight worlds and gender-free desires. Says ***, “It’s certainly easier because you don’t have to explain yourself all the time.” But, more importantly, bisexuals are often more open-minded, communicative, and questioning of things different from the norm, as they have been forced to confront many issues that others have not. But there are many people both gay and straight who exhibit all of these qualities.

Being bisexual and frank about it, opens me to disapproval. However, it’s important for me to know who I am, and the sum total of who I am. Fortunately, there are many who understand and are open to love in all its colors. This also provides fertile ground for communication. Because of this, my relationships tend to be closer than those of many people.

I tend to avoid any discussion of sex with my mother, as she has very different views on such matters, and makes us both uncomfortable. However, I recently decided to “come out” to my mother, as we are fairly close. I felt that this was something I needed to share with her in order to become closer. So, I mentioned to her the Conference on Bisexuality which I was a coordinator for, and waited nervously for her response. She was not particularly pleased or upset. She said my life would probably be difficult, but said that she had “wondered.” I’m not sure about her, but I feel much closer to her for having been able to reveal this particular facet of my personality, and I consider her more of a friend now. When we talk, I feel more of a connection.

It is important for me to be honest with others as well as myself, though I am not fanatical about it. However, I do not tell lies, either outright or those of omission, to those I am involved with, about my sexual orientation. In my professional life, I avoid talking about any of my personal life. I am not sure how people would react if they knew of my lifestyle, and I like to keep professional and personal aspects of my life very separate. Nevertheless, I am not especially secretive about my bi sexuality. I have mentioned gay pride events I’ve been to when people have asked me what I was doing that weekend, and occasionally word of my boyfriend comes up. I figure that a careful observer would notice such things and wonder, and I will answer truthfully if anyone asks. I do not wish to either hide who I am, or expose too many intimate details of my personal life.

Unfortunately, adhering to the word bisexual are many unfavorable stereotypes. At best, we are seen as hopelessly promiscuous. At worst, transmitters of death. Nevertheless, in their study, Weinburg, Williams, and Pryor asked, “Is it possible t hat someday you could behave either exclusively homosexual or exclusively heterosexual?” Over 80% answered yes …The change would generally come from achieving a long-term monogamous and involved relationship…”

As an editor recently said upon discovery of my dual attractions, “My first thought was, ‘she doesn’t look like a bisexual.’” My dress is somewhat conservative, my platinum blond hair medium-length and my eyes deep blue. Others say I am attractive. (Both sexes, though more often straight and bisexual men.) My figure is petite, 5’3″ and 110lbs. I wear little make-up, but usually sport jewelry.

What do bisexuals look like? Everyone else. What do we want? What everyone else wants– to love and be loved without societal prejudice.

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